While it’s not exactly one of the more exciting brands at Mobile World Congress 2016, Alcatel is shaking things up within with a brand name change, the launch of its Idol 4 series, and a 2-in-1 laptop tablet hybrid that runs Windows 10.
Alcatel hopes to launch a dedicated VR app store.
Previously, a large number of its devices operated under the Alcatel OneTouch brand name, such as the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. It’s an uninspiring mouthful, and the company seems to have realized that — it’s cutting the word OneTouch from all its products after today. The company also has a new logo to go with the name change.
Along with the new logo comes the Alcatel Idol 4 and the 4S. The highlight of the two devices is a dedicated “Boom Key” on the side of the phone, which offers access to quick functions to the camera, gallery, certain games, and more. They’ll also both run the latest version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.
The 4S is the higher-end device, with a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, an eight-core Snapdragon 652 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage space, and a 3,000mAh battery to boot. It also has expandable MicroSD storage too, up to 512GB. The rear camera captures a sharp 16-mexapixel image using an f/2.0 aperture lens while the front-facing camera can manage 8 megapixels and even features flash. It can capture 2K video at 30fps, 1080p video at 60 fps, and 720p video at 120fps.
The Idol 4’s specs clearly put it behind the 4S, with a 5.2-inch Full HD display, an octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It also has a MicroSD slot, which can expand your storage up to 512GB. It has a 2,610mAh battery, a 13-megapixel rear camera with flash, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera (also with flash).
The two phones are quite zippy — and that may be because of Alcatel’s incredibly light skin on the device, which is almost indistinguishable from stock Android. There are a few apps that come from Alcatel, like its OneTouch music app, and some alterations to the notification tray, but the skin is hardly something cumbersome or ugly.
Both devices have glass on the back and the front and have a metal casing going around them, making them feel quite high-end and not much like a budget phone at all. The company will offer a gold, dark gray, rose gold, and silver metal frame options when purchasing the device.
Boom Key experience
What’s neat about the Boom Key — which is, again, a button that does different things in different apps — is that you can customize what exactly you want it to do. You can have it launch any app you choose, set it to open the camera, or have it even act as a dedicated camera shutter button. With the camera, pressing and holding the Boom Key can make the camera go into burst mode to quickly capture stills. Alcatel highlighted certain features of the button, like its ability to work with games like Asphalt and trigger the Nitro, boosting the car’s speed.
The Boom Key also enhances the bass on the device when you press it while playing music. The audio on the Idol 4 and 4S were a collaboration effort from Alcatel with JBL and Waves. Both devices have rear- and front-facing speakers, and will also come shipped with a pair of JBL earphones.
Moving into VR
The Idol 4S will also come with a plastic virtual reality headset that will likely be integrated with the 4S packaging. Just like Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR, the phone goes in front of the headset and is locked into place. There are a handful of games and other apps compatible with it right now, but Alcatel hopes to launch a dedicated VR app store for the device and the 4S.
Alcatel says the Idol 4S will release in the second quarter of the year for around 450 euros, and the Idol 4 will be priced at 280 euros and will be available around the same time. Devices in the Idol 4 series will make its way to the U.S., but the company was hesitant to specify exactly which device would cross the sea and when. The 4S seems a little pricey, it lacks a fingerprint sensor which seems as though it should be on a device at this pricepoint. It does feel as though you’re using a high-end device, we’ll have to see how the processor handles the operating system over time.
The Plus 10
Alcatel is also trying to tap into the hybrid laptop and tablet marketplace with a Windows 10 laptop that’s powered by Intel’s Atom Z8350 processor, comes with 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. It does have a MicroSD slot, which allows up to 64GB of additional storage capacity. The tablet has a 5,830mAh battery, dual front-facing speakers, a 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 5-megapixel one on the back.
The 10.1-inch features inductive charging as the keyboard has a built-in battery, similar to Google’s Pixel C. The battery has an additional 2,580mAh battery. The tablet slips on and off the keyboard via magnets, but the magnets weren’t that strong and you definitely will want to grab it securely when walking around with it, folded or upright. The keyboard seems a bit too squished, and has an incredible small trackpad, and overall the device seemed a little flimsy — as though it would break apart with a small drop. The tablet also felt quite cheap.
We’ll have to wait and see until we get a review unit to see how it holds up and if it will be worth using as a productivity tool. The Plus 10 will retail for around 250 euros for the Wi-Fi version, and 350 euros for the 4G variant. The release date hasn’t been announced yet, but it will be available in white, black, and gray.
The company will also announce devices in a new Pop 4 series later this week at Mobile World Congress.